Nairobi, Kenya's capital, has grown from a swampy railway camp in 1899 into the largest city between Johannesburg and Cairo, and is today a thriving city with a clamoring street life. Although not a prime tourist destination, Nairobi does have a number of good attractions, including the Nairobi National Park and other wildlife centers and museums.

The Rift Valley is a vast geological feature created by tectonic forces in Earth's crust, which runs approximately 6,000km (3,720 miles) from Syria, under the Red Sea, through East Africa to Mozambique. In Kenya, the valley is at its deepest just north of Nairobi, and there are viewpoints on the Nairobi-Naivasha road. This region is dotted with lakes such as Elmenteita, Baringo, Bogoria, and Nakuru.

Western Kenya is one of the least visited areas of the country, as there are no big game parks to attract visitors. The hilly, fertile scenery, characterized by strikingly green tea plantations, is pretty and has some impressive geographical features. Mount Elgon is the second-tallest mountain in Kenya, and Lake Victoria is the second-largest freshwater lake in the world. The Kakamega Forest is the last patch of tropical rainforest left in East Africa, while the tiny Saiwa Swamp National Park protects the rare and shy sitatunga antelope.

Roughly covering the region north of Nairobi to Isiolo, the central highlands are dominated by Mount Kenya, which can be climbed on an organized 5-day hike. To the north of the mountain is the Laikipia Plateau, a former region for ranching that has now been restocked with wild animals. To the west of Mount Kenya is the Aberdares National Park, which is not your typical African game park, as the terrain is moorlike, forested, and often shrouded with fog, though it has plentiful wildlife.

Kenya's coast is a playground for mostly European package tourists on sun, sea, and sand holidays, and for good reason. The 480km (298 miles) of Indian Ocean shoreline boasts sublime white-sand beaches, shady palm trees, sunny weather, warm water for swimming, and a colorful chain of offshore fringing coral reefs. Away from the beach, the historical towns remain a testament to the Swahili culture that has been on the coast for thousands of years.

No trip to Kenya is complete without visiting one or more of the major parks and reserves, located along the border with Tanzania in southern Kenya. The Masai Mara Game Reserve is an extension of Tanzania's Serengeti National Park, and this region of well-watered grassland plains stages the spectacular annual wildebeest migration. Kilimanjaro provides a stunning backdrop to Amboseli National Park, while the combined Tsavo East and Tsavo West national parks are the biggest protected wildlife refuge in Kenya and home to large herds of game, especially elephants.

The vast parched and stony deserts of Northern Kenya are remote and isolated, access is difficult, and in recent years the area has suffered from drought and parts have been occupied by refugees from war-torn Somali and Sudan. Much of the area is also troubled by intertribal violence and banditry, and tourists should take local advice before traveling in the region. Samburu National Reserve is the only stop on the traditional tourist circuit in this region, although Lake Turkana and Marsabit national parks are other rarely visited options.

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